LARAMIE, Wyo. Its a four-phase game for the Boise State football team.
Offense, defense, special teams and the out-of-town scoreboard.
All four clicked Saturday for the No. 21 Broncos, who look more like a threat to sneak their way into a Bowl Championship Series game every week.
Boise State smacked Wyoming 45-14 on a wintry afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.
The first-team offense scored five rushing touchdowns, converted 11-of-12 third downs and never punted. The defense adjusted after an early push from Wyoming, stuffed the Cowboys on five straight possessions and scored their fourth touchdown of the year. And the special teams blocked a field goal and delivered two long kick returns.
All year, weve had a good plan, said junior quarterback Joe Southwick, who was 20-of-28 for 198 yards with an interception. Just sometimes we were not getting it done. But we did a good job we were clicking today.
The Broncos likely will move up in the BCS on Sunday, creeping toward the top-16 threshold for an automatic berth. Ohio lost on Saturday, leaving the Broncos as the only serious threat from a non-BCS conference. And losses by Wisconsin and Michigan make it unlikely that the Big Ten will have a champion ranked ahead of the Broncos at seasons end.
Boise State (7-1 overall, 4-0 Mountain West) just needs to keep winning impressively, like Saturday, helps.
We definitely came out playing well right from the get-go, said senior tailback D.J. Harper, who rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns. We wanted to keep that pedal to the metal all game.
The Broncos had been dealing with offensive misfires throughout their first seven games, particularly in the red zone.
They barely hit any speed bumps against Wyoming. The only time the first-teamers didnt score was when Southwick threw an interception at the goal line in the second quarter.
The Broncos rushed for 214 yards (four players scored) and threw for 223.
It was a tough one today in that we couldnt get the defense off the field, said Wyoming interim coach Pete Kaligis, who filled in for suspended coach Dave Christensen. Boise was phenomenal on third-down conversions. We just couldnt get the punt team on the field.
The Broncos spent some extra time on third downs in practice last week, sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller said. They were 13-of-37 (35 percent) in the previous three games.
A lot of times you start in the O-line and move quickly to the quarterback, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said of why his team was so effective on third down. Joe was seeing things pretty well. He played pretty darn efficient. The one (interception), if you could have that one back, thats probably as clean as we can be.
These kids are always taking things to heart. Whatever we try to put on their plate and say, This is where we need to go to get better, they seem to respond.
The Broncos defense faced some rare adversity against the Cowboys (1-7, 0-4), whose spread offense is potent when sophomore quarterback Brett Smith is in the huddle.
The Cowboys came out with a five-receiver set and picked apart the Broncos for 13 plays and 76 yards on the first drive, which ended with a blocked field goal, and for 15 plays and 75 yards on the second drive, which culminated in a Smith touchdown run.
That ended the Broncos five-game streak of first-half shutouts.
It was worrisome, Petersen said. Thats what weve seen Wyoming do. They spread you out and they can make plays, and that quarterback is very hard to tackle.
Adding to the concern: Defenders kept hobbling to the sideline.
The Broncos, who started without suspended safety Lee Hightower, lost cornerback Bryan Douglas, nickel Dextrell Simmons, defensive tackle Greg Grimes and defensive end Kharyee Marshall.
But coaches adjusted the scheme, the defensive line started harassing Smith and the Cowboys crumbled.
In their next five possessions, they gained 1 yard and picked up one first down.
The Broncos led 10-7 when that stretch began. They led 38-7 when it ended.
The biggest moment: Defensive linemen Beau Martin and Darren Koontz sacked Smith, who fumbled. Nickel Corey Bell grabbed the loose ball and ran 19 yards for a touchdown with 10 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was very physical and they are strong and fast, said Smith, who generated 225 of the Cowboys 270 yards. They did a good job of going out and hitting us. Obviously they are a team that likes to hit back.
And one that is gaining that old Boise State swagger.
Week eight, Miller said, were finally hitting our stride.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat